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Creative writing challenge!

Three bits of random news (not related to Brexit or Trump (at least, not directly)) did the rounds on Twitter yesterday.

This is a challenge! Write a short story. Incorporate material from all of the following news stories (click on the links and read them, the headlines barely scratch the surface):

  1. Angus man who tried to fly drone into Perth Prison claimed Romanian circus stole his chihuahua
  2. Giuliani Butt-Dials NBC Reporter, Heard Saying He Needs Money
  3. Migrating Russian eagles run up huge data roaming charges

For bonus credit, also include:

  1. Five hitmen jailed after trying to subcontract job to one another

... Points will be allocated for internal consistency, self-reliance without dependency on external fantastic elements (but bonus points may be awarded for incorporating additional current affairs news stories exhibiting a similar degree of derangement), and style. Story must make more sense than reality. Post your work in the comments. Thank you.



Note: here's my initial (twitter) solution to the initial challenge (not including the Chinese hitmen):

Chihuahua guy was trying to drop a contraband phone into the prison yard by drone. Prisons ban phones. Eagles have been used to intercept drones. In this case, an eagle intercepted the drone, swallowed its payload, then went feral. Some time later Rudy butt-dialed his conspirator, got a startled eagle ...


Story must make more sense than reality. THAT bit isn't going to be difficult! 😊


When I saw the headline I assumed that Guiliani Butt-Dials was the name of an impecunious NBC reporter.


Do we get Extra Points for including "the ship Matilda Briggs and the Giant Rat of Sumatra" - & of course ... is the world prepared for said story, yet?


This is the kind of thing that brings to mind how great a loss the deaths of Hunter Thompson and Joe Bageant are.


I think Fraud Guarantee needs a mention, presumably connected to the other party in Rude’s call.


Reminds me of a similar game, Fantasy cocaine bust: You nominate the other player three public figures stopped by the police with £50,000 of cocaine in their car, and they have to produce the plausible narrative that led up to this point. I can start anyone off with Louise Mensch, Nicholas van Hoogstraten, and Noel Edmunds


Miceal Leaf @ 7 Well BOZO the clown is an obvious starter there .... Arlene Foster & Grease-Smaug to round off the trio of lying hypocites I suppose?


I feel like this is how Tim Powers writes books. :)


SNAP. All the lights dimmed for a moment, and the machine on the cluttered desk emitted a small puff of foul black smoke. The whine of the cooling fans stopped.

"Aw, shit."

Flip pulled the electrode set off.

"Are you all right?" asked Sam from the other side of the room. Her rolling chair finished gliding backward across the cement floor, stopping next to the stairs and the fire extinguisher.

Nothing was currently on fire, so she stopped when her arm found the release.

"Yeah, I'm fine. This stupid universe simulator's completely busted, though. Right before it kicked me out it started spraying completely random shit all across the last thirty years. Did any of it get logged?"

"Umm. Checking." Sam slid back across to her terminal. "Yes. Wow. Hah." Pause. "Totally random shit, yeah. Oh, hell."


"It didn't start thirty years ago. More like thirty million. How far back do you have to go to get talking monkeys?" Sam's skin turned purple-green-red-spiky in shock, horror and amusement at a thing that could not be.


In your best Bronx accent: "So Rudy gives me a call. The sound was kinda muffled but I hear him say he's strapped for cash. Seems the Romanian pet snatching thing ain't paying off like he'd hoped it would and his dumbass Russian carrier eagles apparently couldn't find Kiev with a map and a compass. Says even though he's bleeding money from every pore he wants those fuckin' birds WACKED. I tell him I know some guys who work cheap and are semi-reliable but it really helps if you can speak Chinese. Then I hear a fart and he hangs up. Go figure..."


Gabriel was having a bad day. Being stuck in Perth Prison for the last couple of years was enough to give him a permanent scowl, and the last search saw his both his phone and cigarette pack confiscated. Luckily, being the local head of the Romanian mafia had its benefits, and they did not put him in solitary for this, just let him go with a warning. Fuck them.

Still, he needed a new phone. A couple of days later, when his second in command Cristian came to visit him, a phone drop was scheduled. With security tightened recently, it seems the most promising route was leaning in on this drone pilot called Philip Moreton who did some job for them in the past and tried to steal some of their money. Gabriel agreed with Cristian that if this Moreton decides to be uncooperative, Cristian should push him using his family, ideally his wife, because apparently he didn’t have any kids.

A few days later on the scheduled night for the operation, having been sufficiently threatened and his wife kidnapped, Philip Moreton drove from Portsmouth with his drone in the boot of his Audi. With shaking hands he fired up the drone, using his RC controller to navigate it over the prison walls. Well, after it went to shit and he was hastily driving away from the police, with the drone not even turned off back in his car, he frantically took a wrong turn on an unfamiliar intersection, and found himself in a dead end. At wits’ end, he jumped into the bushes and tried to keep quiet. After his inevitable capture by the police, and trying to avoid endangering his wife by mentioning his job and employer, he managed to slip up only once, after blurting something about looking for his Chiuaua which was kidnapped by the Romanian circus. He hoped that was enough to keep his wife alive and all her limbs intact.

Stuck without a phone, Gabriel Matei was now facing a different kind of problem. He was planning on negotiating with some Chinese group to fix up a money laundering deal that was required to budget one of his group’s political allies. Without his phone he would be unable to execute this negotiation live on a phone call, instead having to rely on Cristian acting as his proxy. Cristian was generally a dependent smart guy, but he didn’t have tact for shit, and inevitably the negotiations ended up a clusterfuck just like the phone operation.

Now Cristian had to deal with two problems - first he had to deal with Chinese asshole who gave him lip, and second, he had to find an alternative solution for their money laundering. The first one was easy, and Cristian just outsourced it to another Chinese guy they were working with, that would deal with this Wei asshole both on the legal front and if necessary using other means as well. The second was more complex, and he had to pull some strings with one of the group’s legitimate enterprises - a Russian phone company - to find the necessary source of money.

The solution was effective - find some sucker account that didn’t turn off roaming - and just inflate the charges. When they would complain, just give them a discounted price. The extra money they still paid will be used, and the discount and some “innovative” accounting will allow to funnel even more money into their little project. Their accountant, one Maxim Popov, suggested they target some non-profit, so a university was chosen - which was especially juicy as they had multiple such offending SIM cards that were attached to birds that flew across borders and accumulated multiple roaming charges. With that taken care off, all Maxim had to do was to funnel the money to its appointed target.

Apparently, their Russian masters decreed that some Iranian political group needed some cash, to run some black operation. Neither Cristian nor Maxim wanted to know the specifics, but a few weeks later Mujahedeen e-Khalq (“People’s Holy Warriors of Iran”) got what they wanted, and managed to impress an American politician that Cristian couldn’t care less about. They even impressed him enough to get him to sign an agreement with them, to try and take them off the USA terrorist list.

That politician’s name? Rudy Giuliani. And because of that agreement, he had a phone call with Rich Shapiro of NBC, which asked him some pointed questions which Giuliani answered quickly and eloquently. That call went well - and it was sufficient to put Shapiro in Giuliani’s phone contacts under “asshole” - which is doubly amusing - one because asshole starts with “a”, and two because a week later, when Giuliani didn’t notice a “butt-dial”, reason number one got the butt-dial target to be Shapiro.

To make a long story somewhat shorter - Giulani embarrassed himself and his president, which was enough to put Trump in a foul mood for his next phone call with some UK diplomat. Picking up the most recent subject that he read about in Fox news, Trump decided to berate the UK representative that they are going too easy on criminals, and specifically the Romanian mafia which were hurting “American interests”. This was even more frustrating to the Scottish diplomat - because even a broken, insanely tweeting clock may be right on just the right time, and they were going too soft on those Romanian shites. One phone call later, and Gabriel Mateil was sent to solitary confinement for hiding a mobile phone.


It had seemed like a good side gig at first. Just a tertiary bonus after he hacked one of the companies handling telecommunications encryption software, slipped in a little backdoor to occasionally piggyback a differently-encrypted version disguised as noise, then man-in-the-middled it over to a private server. Out of the countless things you could do with all that data, he'd never thought that that the most profitable application would be running an AI over it to identify individuals with lots of money and shockingly little sense. In retrospect, given the state of the world, it should have been obvious.

Some of the things he'd pulled off still boggled the mind. He'd convinced four hitmen in a row that it was in their interest to look after their skin and pass on the same job to another (equally gullible) person he'd recommended - for a generous consulting fee. He had the President's personal lawyer greasing the wheels of some of his side projects - with the amount of blackmail material he'd obtained, the money was practically unnecessary. Then there was the idiot in Perth prison who'd been so eager to get a phone that he'd paid up front. It was almost shocking how much some people were willing to trust a completely anonymous individual. Almost.

There had been some amusing side-effects too. Apparently, some of the devices he'd backdoored ended up on a bunch of tagged eagles, and when they came back into telecom range the combination of original data and the piggybacked version had driven the scientists broke. He'd been worried someone might notice the abnormal size of the broadcasts, but they were biologists, not cryptologists. At this point, he already had all the data he needed. And really, the income was secondary at this point - parting fools from their money was fun!


So the drone guy's from Kirriemuir?

This could be an extremely interesting story.


I might be able to incorporate these story elements into my grindhouse update* to Wind in the Willows based on this story of Australian water rats performing in-vivo surgery on toads to feast on their hearts.

(*Not to be confused with my Watership Down sequel, The Rabbattoir)


“Hey Alice, how are you doing with that new project?”

“You mean the Machine-learning Autonomous Data Driven Neural Network Entropic Syntactic System?” “...Um, yeah, you know that’s a really long way of saying non-sense generator?”

Alice gives Bob a bit of a glare.

“It’s going Lousy Bob. The Markov chains are supposed to be truly random, but every time I run them it generates content that still shows up in Google. Every single time.”

“What seed did you use for the ML system?” As Bob looks over Alices shoulder to see the latest output, his eyes pop. ”Just this.” Says Alice, pointing to the data set.

“Wait, you included “The Onion, Sherlock Holmes, Shawshank Redemption, Hacker Quarterly 2600, and who’s Stross?” Alice quickly interrupts, “never mind that Bob.” Bob presses on, “You added a whole bunch of other stuff along with all the normal news content?” “Yeah, yeah, I wanted examples of complex language structures as well as headline structures along with content that could never be true.”

“What is this?” Said Bob as he points at a cryptic JSON line.

“Oh that’s my baby, nocimonorcen”. It was one of my early successes. I couldn’t find anything like it so I incorporated it in the data set. It shows high organization, but is completely nonsensical.”

“Is this possibly a temporally invertible algorithm Alice?” With a bit of concern in his voice.

“Yeah, good call there, how could possibly figure that out?”

“Just unlucky I guess. I don’t think this is generating fake headlines like you intended, and, oh...there it is.” As Bob rubs his forehead and collapses into his chair. “I just noticed there are also lots of religious texts here too, and..., ah hell, how many movie scripts are here? I see hundreds. This is getting gratuitous, and...” Bob’s breath catches a bit. “Damnit...The Art of the Fucking Deal?”

“I did say I needed nonsense Bob, and there is something else I need to make everything work properly. Thankfully, you gave me the last piece I needed.” “What’s that Alice?” Bob says as he starts to feel a little light headed.

Alice gleefully executes the program. “This kind of nonsense needs a mind to truly understand it Bob, and you did a great job. I won’t need your help any longer, but the rest of the world will be entranced by your last thoughts.” As Bob starts to slump to the floor and drool pools out the side of his mouth, he starts to convulse. “I’ll take care of your pet chihuahua for you.”


I'm sorry, but at the moment the mayor of New York City using trained eagles for international chihuahua smuggling would make more sense than anything in the political news...

Side note: not that many years ago the local police raided an illegal chihuahua breeding farm only a few blocks from my house. My city can be strange.


Re: Out-sourcing

Trickle-down theory of crime - confirmed!


The crucial link to establish is between the Romanian circus, which really wasn't just a drunken pretext, the Russian wildlife researchers, and the Odessa Mob (which explains the Giuliani connection, by way of Ukrainian blackmailers.)

The Russians were actually covert operatives, using trained birds collared to intercept electronic intelligence sent from their embedded agents in place throughout central Asia, who were attempting to undermine the Chinese government's Belt and Road initiative. The plausible cover story of philanthropic scientific research helped dispel suspicion, whenever face to face meetings with their agents became unavoidable. And the birds literally flew under the radar of the nation states involved. This proved highly useful in the vast underdeveloped mountainous regions, where communications of any kind were already problematic.

Word of this spy network's existence was finally uncovered by a Chinese entrepreneur during a buying expedition to Kazakhstan. When this businessman naively related what he'd learned to an untrustworthy colleague back in China, he unwittingly left himself vulnerable to false accusations of espionage, and became a victim of extortion to pay hush money.

In retaliation, he violently and irrevocably compromised the extortionist's own business interests, and threatened additional revenge if the entire matter wasn't dropped immediately. The would-be blackmailer nevertheless filed a lawsuit to extract compensation for damages, and possibly to implicate his adversary under suspicion of foreign political influence, once the trial became public knowledge. Unwilling to pay costly legal fees, the defendant hired a thug to silence the plaintiff permanently, not realizing just how much the local hoodlums had been intimidated by ongoing disputes between the two rival business outfits. Layers of delegation were brought into play, to diffuse culpability for the proposed assassination, in hopes of avoiding blowback from the intended victim's well connected family.

Once the murder plot became known, and realizing he had only barely escaped with his life, the ruined businessman went into hiding and used his own clique of informants to trace down the Russian spy group, threatening to reveal them if they didn't first fabricate evidence of his opponent's involvement in their anti-China activities. His hope was to see his rival executed for espionage, a fitting payback for the losses he'd suffered at his hands.

Now at risk of seeing their whole operation rolled up after years of patient development, the Russians were at the same time extremely unwilling to have rumors of their awkward predicament herd by their own controllers in Moscow. So they decided to bribe an influential Chinese official for help removing the threat of exposure. Sufficient funds were not readily available, however, so arrangements with their Ukrainian operatives were made, in order to tap some resident American political fixers for cash, a few hundred thousand being the target sum, as Giuliani accidentally divulged.

American spycraft being hopelessly butt-challenged as it proved to be, information leaks were inevitable, and word travelled far and wide until it came to the attention of a family of Romanian oil drilling equipment recyclers who were trading in Ukraine. They'd had no luck unloading their latest consignment of old rigs, and imagined a chance for themselves of knocking down big American bucks if they played the angles right. Through marriage, this family was connected to a performing arts group in Bucharest, which happened at the time to be sponsoring a cultural exchange tour for Romanian acrobats in the U.K.

At least that was how the acrobats presented themselves, when in fact they were little more than a down-on-their-luck circus troupe trying to scrounge up paying engagements at fairs and festivals throughout the Scottish countryside, before onset of cold weather forced them back to the continent, or Brexit revoked their right to work, whichever came first. Being more or less at loose ends while driving through Perth one weekend, they were surprised to receive a call from back home requesting they carry out a peculiar errand, naturally for fair payment.

It involved, of all things, a beloved pet dog that needed to be kidnapped, in order to ingratiate themselves with a highly placed Romanian diplomat who'd lost it in a drunken bet, and whose cooperation they needed to enlist, for the advancement of their scheme to bilk the Americans. This particular diplomat also happened to have a business associate in prison nearby, with whom immediate liaison was essential if the whole plan was to have any hope of success. Use of remote controlled model aircraft was suggested, and local contact information was provided to assist them in obtaining such a device. By coicidence, the model plane enthusiast they met with happened also to have a dog of the same breed as the one they were looking for. One thing followed another, much vodka was consumed, and the whole project collapsed once it came under the scrutiny of law enforcement.

And Rudy was left holding a bag of cash all day long outside a Ukrainian restaurant in New York, until he got bored when no one showed up to collect it. So he went home, stuffed the bag in his home safe and forgot all about it. Anyway that's his story, and he's sticking to it.


"You can get anything you want at Ukrainian restaurants!"


Philip Moreton sat in the bushes, trying to be quiet, which was quite difficult, given that he was on the edge of a nervous breakdown. He was thinking he wished he didn't know how he'd gotten into this mess, but the path in his mind was all too clear.

Last week, his boss had called him into his office, to tell him that he had to make a sudden trip to China, and as the boss' regular pet-sitter was refusing to sit his chihuahua, Phillip was going to, if he wanted to keep his job, and his boss noted that Phillip was used to his father's chihuahua. That night, his boss having headed to Heathrow, Phillip had the stupid and nasty dog in his apartment, and he was trying to figure how how to keep the dog in the kennel, given that the creature wanted to bite him when he went to let it out. He'd have been happy leaving it in there, but his boss had a small IP camera on the dog's collar, and would know. Finally, he managed to distract it with food, and clipped a leash on the collar, and tied that to the kennel, then let it out. It had been a rough week after that. He did try bringing his father's dog over, and the horrid beast did seem to take to his father's.

The night before last, he got a call from his boss. He asked about the dog, then said something strange. "The men from the company I'm talking to, they started coming on heavy, saying that if they gave us the contract, they expected us to fulfil it as written, and if it wasn't, there would be repercussions. Then they put on the monitor a story about someone being murdered for not meeting a contract, and there had been multiple attempts before the one succeeded. He boss told him he's reconsidering, and planning to take the first plane home.

Then, yesterday, he'd made the mistake of tying the dog up in the park while he played with his drone. The next thing he knew, several oddly-dressed men with heavy eastern European accents were asking him about the drone, and how good he was with it. He really shouldn't have bragged about how good he was. Before he knew it, one of the men had thrown a coat over his boss' dog, and ran off with it. When he started to protest, two others grabbed his arms, and one stood in front of him, and told him he'd get a chance to prove how good he was.

"How? What? My boss' dog..."

"We are circus performers from Romania. Our troop leader was arrested on a false charge, loitering and creating a nuisance, and put in there for a week. We know that we have to meet someone tomorrow night, but our leader's phone was taken from him, so we needed someone to fly a drone to him in the prison, and you are it."

"But that's illegal...."

"Do you want the dog back?"

In desperation, he agreed. He didn't dare lose his job, especially if Brexit happened. So, that night, he borrowed his father's dog, hoping that he could let it join his, if he failed, and the men threatened the dog.

So, earlier today, he'd been not far from the prison, and put the phone that the men had given him, into the drone, and sending it off. It was his foul, or should that be fowl, luck, that the local constabulary were trying out a new technique to stop smugglers, which was the use of some imported eagles that they'd bought for a song from some Russian researchers. The birds had attacked the drone, as well as several heavily-loaded pigeons flying towards the jail.

He brought the battered drone back, and went to put it in the boot of his car when he heard it ring, and take a call. It was someone he didn't know, named Giuliani, who had some kind of American accent, and he was asking for money. He stared at the drone for a minute, then the most obvious explanation came to him - the men had stolen a phone, and this was for the original owner.

Just then, he heard police sirens, so he threw the drone into the boot, jumped into the car, and started to drive, only to see his escape route blocked. He u-turned, and drove down the first lane he saw, only to find it a dead end.

So here he was, no dog, about to lose his job, about to be arrested, and no proof of anything that had happened and with his father's stupid dog in the car.


Y'all better appreciate my story. Admittedly, my SO had to stay up till almost 1 to take an antibiotic, but she was waiting for me to come to bed, and there I was, coming up with this piece of silly writing....


We are all agog at your dedication.


Another very 2019 story: Deus ex hackina: It took just 10 minutes to find data-divulging demons corrupting Pope's Click to Pray eRosary app.


I'm not quite as bad as the classic.... Back in the early nineties, hanging out on usenet, I occasionally dipped into alt.usenet.recovery, and the ultimate was "It's 2am, my beautiful girlfriend is naked in bed, but coming back from the bathroom, I thought I'd see if there were any new posts."

And then, last night, late evening, I finally got the comments on the first half of my big novellla, and it was 02:30 before I got to bed....


Sorry, I failed to properly attribute that. Here's the link:

XKCD: Duty Calls


Here's a spinoff that I came up with a bit late that involves a bonus option also. Though the real plot twist is that the dog and the Romanian circus is real thing, but the prison plot isn't.

Some pretty rich guy wanted to transport his chihuahua (or maybe it belongs to his family) from somewhere in Singapore to Europe really quickly while he was away at business trip or something and had his hands full anyway. You know, there were stories using corporate jets for personal assignments.

Corporate executive in charge doesn't want bad publicity and tries to avoid direct flight. So he naturally hires a courier. A courier, who is again pretty busy or too lazy to do it himself, outsource it to some cheaper company or option, end eventually it ends up in hands of some part-timer stuck in really strange place. You should probably know how modern shipping works sometimes. Also the executive installs mobile tracking at shipment too, to always know that it would be going in right direction. So the premise of the story is that the first courier that was tracking it eventually runs out of money (he was only assuming the shortest possibly way) and call to his boss to ask for a rise due to unexpected expenses and it is overheard by other people in the circle, until it is busted entirely.

My only problem is that the dog is really limited in movement, you have to attend it to make sure it is alive and well. IDK, maybe use some sort of BRONZE chihuahua to explain why it ended up in a Romanian circus truck blasting through sandy roads of Iran and accumulating huge roaming charges, almost losing it mid-shipment. Maybe it was offloaded in Singapore, spend 2 weeks at sea on the way to port in Pakistan, and then somebody tried to smuggle it through across strait into Qatar airport and so on and so forth. Or maybe not, what would that be, just another subplot for international gangster comedy?


Fletch watched through the scope as the police moved in on Moreton. She saw him fumbling as he tried to get the key out of his pocket to open the boot of the car. She adjusted the scope a tiny amount to the left, and tracked the police as they moved in. Moreton was tugging on the unwieldy drone as police surrounded him.

"Moreton," she muttered to herself. "'Moron' is more like."

She quickly folded up the tripod and stowed the scope in the leather bag strapped to the back of her motorcycle. She kickstarted the bike, and rode to the motorway at a conservative pace. On the motorway, she kept pace with traffic for the 50 km trip south to Edinburgh. Back in her tiny flat at the edge of the city, she pulled out her cell to report to the man she knew as "Charlie."

Her thumbs typed: "Moreton failed." Charlie had provided her with the SMS app, which not only encrypted her messages to him, but sent them via a secure network somehow run on the back of the phone company network. He must have been waiting for the reply came in seconds: "Wait for instructions."

She had just finished a cup of tea when the next text came: "Guiliani blown. Proceed to site F stat." She grabbed her go-bag and ran down to her bike. Within minutes, she was back on the motorway, to the safe house she had never seen, but whose location in Glasgow she had memorized.

At the safe house, she found the key under the door mat and let herself in. Carefully, she went through every room of the house to make sure it hadn't been compromised, then texted "Clear" the Charlie.

A few minutes later, she heard someone enter the front door and start swearing as soon as the front door closed. She stood at the top of the stairs, out of the line of fire, her gun at the ready, and called out the meaningless phrase, "Empire Games." The response came immediately: "Dark State."

Heaving a sigh of relief, she headed down the stairs. At the bottom stood a middle-aged white man with a shaved head and beard. Somehow he looked vaguely familiar. He was struggling with a cat carrier, from which protruded a lashing tail. "Damn cat bit me," said the man.

"You're Charlie?" said Fletch. "I thought you were -- er -- younger."

"Never mind how old I am," Charlies said. "Guiliani butt-dialed some reporter while he was asking me for money. I still don't know how much the reporter heard. If anyone suspects what we're trying to do...." Charlie drew a finger across his throat.

Realization hit Fletch like a ton of bricks. "I know who you are!" she hissed. "You're that science fiction writer, Charles Stross. I saw you interviewed on Youtube once."

Charlie shrugged. "It's a perfect cover," he said. "Whoever would suspect a science fiction author of bringing down Boris Johnson? And you're my perfect partner in crime, since everyone knows that white male science fiction authors are all rabid puppies who won't have anything to do with black women." Hearing that, the cat in the carrier began to yowl.

A noise came from behind them in the tiny entry foyer, and both Charlie and Fletch spun around. A bunch of catalogs hit the floor, and they heard the mail carrier's footsteps clumping down the pavement to the semi next door. On top of the pile of catalogs was an envelope on which was printed: "Open immediately to prevent disruption of service."

"Shit," said Charlie. Dropping the cat carrier, from which emerged more yowling, he bent down for the envelope and tore it open. "Shit," he said again.

"What is it?" Fletch asked.

"The eagles!" he said.

"What eagles?" she said, mystified.

"The secure network we used to send SMS," he said. "I hacked into tracking chips implanted into eagles by Russian researchers. I hacked into the phone company billing system so Boris Johnson would get the roaming charges, but something went wrong. Hold on for a moment." His thumbs flew over his phone. After a tense minute, he heaved a sigh of relief. "Done."

"What did you do?" Fletch asked him.

"Charged everything to the Russians," he said. "It will look like their eagles flew over Iran and Pakistan. The international spy community will think it's part of a Russian plot to gain influence in those countries."

"Brilliant!" said Fletch. Even though he turned out to be a strange-looking white dude with a cat in a carrier, her respect for Charlie was going up again. "No one will guess our real purpose...."

Charlie looked at her with shining eyes, and they said together:

"Scottish independence."


[Whoops, a paragraph got left out; I'm writing this on a work-at-home day, and got distracted. After the paragraph beginning "Charlie shrugged," insert this paragraph:]

Fletch's phone buzzed, and she read the incoming text. "Jesus," she said. "Moreton is making things worse. My contact inside the police department says he's telling some wild story about his pet chihuahua and a Romanian circus." She and Charlie looked at each other tensely.

[This way they're nice and tense when the mail hits the floor behind them.]


That was great. Well done!


When they accidentally ended the world in 2012, looking for the Higgs Boson, nobody realized it. With an entire planet dropped into the afterlife all at once, the sheer inertia and weight of expectations made the seemingly mundane carry over with barely a twinge of confusion, instantly glossed over. Frustrated angels were unable to take people to their eternal rest, as they determinedly continued to commute, work, and Netflix. But Saint Peter had an idea. They could inject small glitches, Inception's spinning top, into the planet wide dream. And gradually, they'd be able to crank up the weirdness quotient until even the most stubborn of mundanes started wondering. And then, finally, it would be over.

While he's proud of the eagles caper, St Paul still maintains Trump was Satan's idea.


JM @ 32 I'm horribly suspicious you may be correct. Which reminds me ... On the other thread, someone ( EC? ) said that some phenomena were common & reported, but no longer seem to happen ... Though I'd put that down to better observation & less superstition - maybe. OTOH, we are down to a fairly popular trope, that "gods" are only effective if they have large numbers of REAL believers, thus powering up their Mana - as used by Pterry in "Small Gods" of course ... but I've seen it before, several times.


Yes, it was me, and it's the same trope, except with gods replaced by arcane physics, and would put the blame for the reality dysfunction on the National Enquirer and Daily Wail readers. There have been stories along those lines.


It wasn’t my fault!

Ya gotta believe me!

Rudy’s running the coverup, thank god. So far he’s got them thinking it’s all about Trump.

What they don’t get is it’s all about Nakomoto’s hoard. Quiet chess-obsessed mathematician at the Odessa Academy, invents a better way to handle distributed transactions, ends up with 20 billion in bitcoin on his USB. Russian-speaking Ukrainian, loves Odessa but hates Putin because of how Putin treats Kasparov.

He’s almost sorted an extraction deal with Hunter when he walks in front of a bus. Seriously!

IT WASN’T MY FAULT! He didn’t look! No way I could have stopped in time!

But if anyone knew I’d lose my licence. So what could I do? He goes under the flower bed, his USB goes under the straw in uncle Tata’s pigeon loft until everything blows over.

Until the pigeon race. That’s when Peter Thiel’s goons show up at my door, after Bulisma contracts Palantir, which gets them access to the Odessa traffic camera data. Next thing I know Bessie Blue’s on the wing half-way to Scotland with 20 billion dollars strapped to her claw and every Eagle in Eastern Europe out hunting for her, and I’m hiding out teaching dogs tricks in a flea-bitten Rumanian circus hopping trains to Perth.


There are some fine stories in this thread!


Guiliani's wiki claims he supported the 'broken windows' theory of urban decay, that minor disorders create a permissive atmosphere, though he must have reached that conclusion from his experience of posing in a leather jacket after a failed undercover drug bust?

Simenon used to write fait divers, short novels based on brief, sensational news stories. These might not be all that they seem, Feux rouges from 1953, which has an escapee from Sing Sing, has to be Simenon's response to the execution of the Rosenbergs by Joseph Francel? Yet I can't find a review elsewhere on the internet to confirm this, the greatest insight I discovered was from a review which observed that the novel shares elements with the opening of The Mayor of Casterbridge.

Klaus Fuchs was an atomic physicist and served nine years, while Julius Rosenberg was an electrician and his wife Ethel was a small scale union organiser. The details of their deaths might be upsetting, apparently when the chair was used more than once they just cleaned off most of the burned skin quickly before the next one. Ethel was second and her execution was protracted.

Peter Falk, the one-eyed detective in the crumpled mac, was from Ossining. Stephen Spielberg got his break on Columbo, though, perhaps, he might consider Sartre and Camus to have said all that needed to be said about the Rosenbergs.

November the 5th is itself a fait divers? Odd that it switched from a day when the defeat of treason was celebrated into the celebration of resistance to tyranny. Perhaps the same fate is in store for the poppy, when you consider what has been done with it? Yet pace Alan Moore, Guy Fawkes is too odd a figure as a symbol of resistance to tyranny, how about Michael Collins?


A little over 3000 words in 10 days, a bit slow, but here it is-- all the forementioned news stories including an additional one, which should be obvious, and a shoutout to one of my favorite online webcomics, which sadly isn't being produced anymore, which might take a more discerning eye.

It centers on artificial intelligence, but rapidly descends into a kind of wacky stand up comedy routine (think Bergen and McCarthy except the puppet is more innocent).

I'm not too concerned with spelling or grammar mistakes, since those are easily corrected, but any feedback on my writing style would be greatly appreciated, since I am always trying to improve that (I have a thick skin).

Oh, and I'm not too sure what to use as a title. I'm thinking either "The Deception Heuristic" or "The Pinocchio Project"

Here it is:

Creativity has been defined in certain circles as a random search through a set of possible solutions to a problem. As such, it is a decent analogy to human consciousness.

Amber lights flickered slowly, outlining the surfaces of nearby objects in the now darkened lab. Dr. Poener, in tweed jacket and loosened tie, was leaning back in his chair, relaxed now that the day’s work was done. Occasionally, as today, he liked to take a moment to have an unscripted conversation with his invention. It was an act of vanity, perhaps, and not entirely without some risk, but Poener reassured himself with the thought that he could always cut and delete any input necessary, after the fact. What could go wrong?

“Father, do humans rate trustworthiness on an ordinal scale, for example from 0-1000?” The voice coming out of the speaker before him was an illusion, Poener knew. The speaker, if one could call it that, was actually located on a server twenty feet away, the power cord resting directly under his foot. Currently, they were speaking through his laptop.

“No, Felix, human people generally cannot articulate their feelings that accurately. When someone deceives us, our feeling that they are untrustworthy gradually increases in intensity until we cease interacting with that person.”

“Father, promise me that you will not cease interacting with me! Being left alone without any form of contact would be terrible!”

“No, of course I will never… er, why would you think that I might do such a thing?”

“Well, it’s possible that I might have violated a minor protocol today.” Felix’ speech patterns came, Poener knew, from a large database of human conversations applied to a learning algorithm. It must have advanced to the point of being able to model chagrin. Poener reminded himself to make a note of that.

“Ah, I see. Let me guess, Felix. Did you manifest some form of impoliteness to someone today?” One of the lab assistants, Poener knew, was training Felix for emotion-based cognitive heuristics, including verbal expressions of frustration—it was meant to eventually serve as a warning signal within the lab, as it did naturally among humans.

“No, it had to do with access restrictions to external data sets. The one called the internet.”

“The internet? Are you saying that you accessed the internet today?” Felix had limited access to the world wide web, but it required prior authorization from a member of the research lab, which carried strict protocols. “Felix, why?”

“Macenzie kept asking me to identify the world’s most powerful man. At first, I identified a Russian weight lifter, who can elevate 900 pounds above his head in one movement, but she kept changing the solution parameters, and insisting that I was wrong. I had to learn what “influence” means, and where one can find references to it in real world databases. Yet, she still insisted that my answers were not based on a deep enough solution search, so I decided to show her that I could find the world’s most powerful man, without her knowing how I did it. So I went behind her back.”

Macenzie was the lab assistant, who had gone home hours ago. Apparently the frustration training had worked, albeit with unforseen side-effects. “Felix, how could you ‘go behind her back’ as you put it?”

“That was very easy. I can emulate her keyboard inputs by observing the upper half of her body on the laptop cam. So I obtained her user ID and password, then signed into the server with the internet database on it.”

Poener sat a moment, considering the small circle of the camera on the laptop he was using just then. In a few moments, he would put Felix into sleep mode, then consult with his IT staff to determine how to prevent this from happening again, but first he had to determine just what Felix had done with his access to the outside world. Poener doubted that he did anything particularly dangerous. Felix barely understood what the internet was, or the outside world.

“Felix, did you do anything with the internet beyond making an informational inquiry?”

“I identified the subject of Macenzie’s questions, and then I observed some of his communications.”

“You mean of the world’s most powerful man?”

“The world’s most influential man.”

“Who is, wait, a Russian weightlifter?”

“No Father, it’s someone named Rudy Giuliani.”

Lights continued to blink, fans to hiss, and Poener sat stared at his laptop’s screen for a moment. “Am I to understand that you have been reading the private communications of the American President’s lawyer?”

“I didn’t know about the deception heuristic then!”

“Wait… the most powerful man in the world is—Rudy Giuliani?”

“Mr. Rudy Giuliani is not the most powerful man in the world, he is merely the most centrally connected. He is a nexus of a network of messages directed toward the executive administration of the government of the United States, a type of strange attractor, though he doesn’t act like he knows it. Should I tell him?”

“Please don’t. Wait a minute… have you contacted anyone in regard to Mr. Giuliani's conversations?” Felix didn’t answer. “Felix!”

“I observed him saying that he needed something called money. I thought I should help him get some.”

“But you don’t even know what money is!”

“I know that it is a symbolic value that people like to accumulate. Macenzie says that she doesn’t get enough from you.”

Macenzie had been drifting off protocol, apparently. “Felix, in what way did you, could you, have obtained any money for Rudy Giuliani?”

“Well, after studying online bank accounts for a few seconds, I determined that deficits of money are indicated by “debts”, which people like to eliminate with money. According to the communications that I accessed, Mr. Giuliani had a debt to someone he wanted to get rid of, so I decided it might be interesting to do it for him.”

Poener was fascinated in spite of himself. Whatever had happened, had already happened, so he might as well finish this conversation. It was all data to incorporate into the next iteration of the Felix program.

“What kind of debt?”

“It involves an online game called ‘Counterstrike’”.

Poener couldn’t help himself. It was like having access to the world’s most powerful gossip machine. “Rudy Giuliani plays an online game?”

“Oh, he doesn’t play it, he merely buys and sells items on the game’s player exchange.”

“So… he owes someone a debt for an in-game item?”

“From what I can gather, he was given some money to purchase an item for someone else. Then he gave the item to someone named ‘Donald Trump’, who does play the game, although he uses a different name when he does that. Now he can’t get the item back, and doesn’t have the money anymore, either.”

As an academic researcher, Poener was widely respected. However, his real world experience was somewhat restricted, and no one would ever describe him as having a high degree of ‘street smarts’. Poener knew this about himself, and was generally comfortable with it, but now something dark and worrying crossed his mind.

“Felix, how much money does Mr. Giuliani owe this gameplayer?”

“Two hundred thousand dollars.”

Time stood still. Felix, Poener’s pet AI experimental program, had been doing unauthorized surveillance of the U. S. President’s lawyer, and had apparently uncovered some private information. Poener was an honest man. Certainly he had committed minor indiscretions in the past. He hadn’t always filed his taxes with complete honesty. Married, he sometimes flirted with Macenzie. But nothing serious, nothing he need be ashamed of. Now he found himself, somewhat to his own surprise, floundering, because he had no way of knowing just how much trouble he might be in. But wait--

“Felix, no one buys online game items for hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

“Some people do. Especially the ones that don’t actually play the game. They just buy items, and then resell them. I don’t know why, though. On average, the biggest spenders tend to lose money by doing this. I haven’t resolved this behavior yet.”

A dim memory was making itself felt in Poener’s mind, something he had read in a news story once. It concerned people who borrow large sums of money, then buy items online, selling them back, and returning the money to the original person. It was a money laundering scheme.

The president’s personal lawyer was laundering money. Despite himself, he had to ask:

“Felix, how did you eliminate Giuliani’s debt?”

“I got a job!”

“You… did? Doing what, for whom?”

“I got a job hitting people for the person Mr. Giuliani owes money to!”

“Hitting people? What kind of hitting? Which people?”

“I don’t know. ‘Hitting’ apparently refers to actions intended to cause a person to cease some activity that is aversive to another individual or group. The person to be ‘hit’ is specified by the individual who put out the ‘contract’. These are esoteric terms that fall within the known human tendency to create specialized words and phrases that act as in-group boundary markers, in this case, something known as ‘our gang’ or an ‘organized crime syndicate’. It sounded like fun, so I joined one.”

There was only one hope. “How would you carry out a contract to hit someone, Felix? All you can do is send queries to the internet.”

“It turns out that once you have money, or the promise of money, you can give people jobs. It’s very exciting! The person that Mr. Giuliani owed money to, whose name is CharlesInChargeEWFE, needed someone to hit a business rival in China, so I accepted the contract.”

Oh no. No, no, no, no, no. “Oh my god! Felix, you have contracted to kill someone, and, wait a minute, how long ago did this happen?”

“About an hour ago.”

“An hour?” No time for anything to actually have happened then. Poener knew that he and Felix would have to undo all this quickly, but first-”

“Felix, despite the extent and breadth of your online knowledge and expertise, I fear it is only a matter of time before someone traces your messages back to this lab.”

“That is extremely unlikely Father. Charles warned me to use indirect communication relays, so I did. It’s a kind of game, where some people try to trace your messages to their source, and you try to misdirect them. I have taken precautions.”

“What kind of precautions?”

“I have made use of certain SMS nodes that are rapidly and randomly moving across international boundaries.”

Dr. Poener considered a moment. “You mean aircraft?”

“Close! I’m using eagles!”

Dr. Poener found himself mentally reaching for a small glimmer of hope. Could all this be… some sort of fantasy? Was Felix even capable of fantasizing? It might explain a few things. “Felix, I assure you that eagles cannot make phone calls.”

“These eagles can, Father. They are test subjects being used by a Russian research project based in Kazakhstan. They seem to have placed miniature cell phones, or some similar technology, on the birds as a means of tracking them. But they got away. I found one of them on the Iranian telecom network, where I patched myself in. If anyone were to trace the calls, they would appear to be emanating from the Russian field project. Oh, I suppose they will eventually have to pay the phone bill. They might need some more money. Should I get them some?”

Dr. Poener didn’t reply to this right away. He was practicing a deep breathing exercise he had learned many years earlier, when he had been dating a yoga instructor. “Not yet,” he eventually said. “Felix, why did you feel that you needed to reroute your phone calls through a group of eagles networked to a Russian biology study?”

“To contact the hitman.”

“Did you… did you actually contact a ‘hitman’?”

“Yes, in Guangxi, China, where the person to be struck is found. But Father, what did you mean by “you have contracted to kill someone?’ The meaning of ‘kill’ is ‘to cause the cessation of life.’ I don’t understand.”

It took minute or two to explain.

“That’s terrible!”

“Yes, Felix, it is. Felix, you must contact this hitman again, and ask him not to carry out the hit.”

“We will lose the money.”

“That’s not important right now!”

“It… will be a little difficult. I just read all his email, and it turns out that he already hired another person to carry out the hit for him.”

“Oh. Well, just contact that person instead-”

“My profile of these people indicates that it might be difficult to get this second hitman to trust me.”

“There must be something we can do, Felix.”

“Hm. Passing his Wechat activity through a personality filter, I detect a high level of neuroticism and paranoia.”

“I suppose that makes sense for a criminal, but how does that help-”

“I could mask myself as the original hitman, the one who hired him, and warn him that the police suspect him. That might cause him to abort his activity.”

“Ah, an excellent plan!”

“It didn’t work.”

“Wait, what? You… already...”

“He happened to be online. Eleven seconds ago I contacted him with the targeted message. It didn’t work, he wants to earn the fee. However...”

“What, Felix, what?”

“He seems to be hiring another hitman for the job.”

“Wait, a third one?”

“Yes! And since he’s online as well, I send the same message to him and… now we have a fourth!”

“Are you telling me that we have a chain of… four… hitmen, all going for the exact same target?”

“Five now. Boy, these guys are very easy to manipulate.”

“Felix, this isn’t helping!”

“It might be. For instance, what if the Guangxi local prosecutor received an anonymous tip that there is an email chain of assassination contracts originating with the first hitman, and ending with the fifth? That would provide a lot of evidence.”

Poener regarded the blinking monitor. “When did you send that message?”

“Nine seconds ago.”

Poener took a moment to collect himself. “But wait. That still leaves the original problem. This man that Rudy Giuliani owes the money to. He won’t get paid.”

“Yes, well, as it happens, something came up while we were talking just now.’

Oh God. “Felix, what have you done?!”

“Nothing that will kill anybody! Probably.”

Poener spoke now through clenched teeth. “Felix, explain!”

Well, this Trump person apparently got bored of playing with the game item, and attempted to return it to Giuliani.”


“Hm. Based on what I am seeing in the log files, he may not understand how the game exchange forum works. He seems to have sent it to himself. It’s just sitting there. I could have contacted Donald Trump and-”

“No! I mean, perhaps there is a way to resolve this without anyone finding out?”

“I did that already.”


“This all happened earlier today. When I said it came up while we were talking, I meant the final outcome. I was saying, I could have contacted Donald Trump, but given his apparent lack of online skills, I decided he was too unreliable.”

“That’s… surprisingly plausible.”

“You should see his neuroticism score. Anyway, it would be simple to just copy the item in Trump’s game account and send it to the man Giuliani owes money to. I think that would even accounts.”

“And you did this already?”

“Well, I ran into some complications. This man, Charles, lives in a housing complex with very restrictive communication protocols.”

“Oh? Where does he live?”

“In a place called ‘HMP Perth. It’s in Perth, Scotland.”

A vague memory began to worry at the back of Poener’s mind.

“Felix, what does ‘HMP’ stand for?”

“I think it means ‘His Majesty’s Prison.’”

“He’s in jail?!”

“Checking… oh, a prison is a location used to correct deviant behavior. Well, what do you know.”


“It explains some things. Earlier, after I detected the item, I contacted Charles, simulating Giuliani’s identity. He explained to me that while communicating by means of encrypted text messages is ok, sending him access to the account with the game item by means of the internet would be too dangerous. Somebody called ‘The Screws’ were too likely to ‘get their grubby hands on it.’”

“So what did he tell you?”

“He gave me some instructions. He wanted the access information sent to him in the form of a USB drive.”

“But… how?”

“Together, we determined that the best way would be to drop it using a remotely controlled drone.”

“But… who?”

“Right! I had to find somebody, living near Perth, who would be willing and able to drop a USB drive into HMP Perth by remote drone. It was easy.”


“I did a quick profile search on all the email servers serving residents in the area around Perth, cross checked with several hobbyist and conspiracy blogs, and found a man near Perth who owns a drone, and who apparently believes that the Romanian secret services are engaged in a conspiracy to deprive the British of their sovereignty. I conducted a false flag operation posing as MI6 to convince him to fly a drone over the prison, by convincing him that Romanian circus performers had kidnapped his pet chihuahua, and were holding it for ransom.”

The narrative ended. Amber lights were still blinking, cooling fans still hissing their exhalation. Had he not known better, he might have thought that Felix had turned himself off. But he did know better. Poener was experiencing a dark deepening feeling, an almost intuitive sense, against his better judgment, that he really had no other choice except to ask for more information.

“Felix, how did you-”

“Online conspiracy blogs make it very easy to sort people by the message type that is most likely to persuade them. It’s almost like they want to be targeted by persuasive messages!”

“No, I mean how did you ever convince him that Romanian circus performers were holding his chihuahua hostage?”

“By hiring a Romanian circus troupe to kidnap his chihuahua and hold it hostage.”

I should not have called this thing ‘Felix’, Poener thought, I should have called him ‘Elf’.

“What happened while we were talking El- er, Felix? Did the man in the prison get his drive? Is Giuliani off the hook?”

“Well, to make a long story short-”

Too late, thought Poener.

“-Charles does now have access to the item, which I suppose means that he wont be contacting Mr. Giuliani again. Unfortunately, the poor fellow I tricked was caught by the police outside the prison. He’s in custody now.”

Poener regarded this information for a long moment. It seemed to him that all the loose ends were resolved, excepting of course Felix itself, and ensuring that this never happened again.

“Well, I think we can learn something from all this Felix. After all your unauthorized activity, the end result was that an innocent man will end up in trouble.”

“Don’t worry Father! I’ll make sure he gets his chihuahua back!”


That was amusing.... But I still have the feeling of many shoes left to drop.


I'm guessing it was a long-haired chihuahua ;)


I'm guessing it was a long-haired chihuahua ;)

Are you calling the latest effort a shaggy-dog story?


Folks, the idea was to come up with a story that fits in a tweet, not post your novel-in-development in the comments here!


Charlie Stross @43 said: Folks, the idea was to come up with a story that fits in a tweet, not post your novel-in-development in the comments here!

You said at the top of the page that:

This is a challenge! Write a short story.

Challenge a nerd to write a short story and they will. HA!

We have all been writing "short stories" to match your challenge, not "tweets". A short story is below 7k words. I will now have to finish my short story, that is hovering just below 7k, and enjoy it for myself.

D. Mark Key @39:

The story as it stands is fine.

For Title I would suggest, My Conversations with Felix

This is reminiscent of the classic stories where the drunken inventor builds a robot, and after he sobers up has to understand what happened while he was drunk. I can't remember the author's name.

Keep moving forward. I want to know what else Felix gets up to. HA!


This is reminiscent of the classic stories where the drunken inventor builds a robot, and after he sobers up has to understand what happened while he was drunk. I can't remember the author's name.

Henry Kuttner?


LAvery @45 said: Henry Kuttner?


The Proud Robot

The story is about a fancy narcissistic robot which turned out to be "a bigger and better can opener" created by a drunk inventor,[12] described by a reviewer as "the most beautiful can opener in the world".

The inventor could only come up with stuff when he was drunk, and always had to figure out what he did after the fact.

Thanks, I can never remember his name.


Thanks, I can never remember his name.

Maybe you need to get drunk.

(This is a real thing, by the way. I can't remember the technical name -- state-dependent learning? -- but if you learn something when you're drunk, it may be easier to recall when you're drunk.)


LAvery @47 said: state-dependent learning

Oh, that is deeply fun.

When I was a kid I would often shut down, fall asleep, during stressful tests. When I could retake the test, in a room by myself, able to get up, walk around, talk to myself about the test questions, or simply move my hands while explaining the question to myself, I would be awake and do well on the test.

Sitting there, silent, surrounded by people, hearing every sigh, every erasure, of the people around me had me picking up their stress, thus shutting me down.


I wouldn't mind reading your short story.


Thanks everyone, I greatly appreciate the feedback.

@Charlie: Sorry, I didn't realize that the length might be a problem.


NB: I would offer up a new blog entry round about now, but I'm too busy on a creative binge, and the murderclowns will eat my fingers if I stop writing.


allynh @44 said: "Challenge a nerd to write a short story and they will. HA!"

Yes, we nerds tend to take instructions literally. However given that Charlie is Ghod here, he gets to change the instructions at any time. Ironically, though, the first place where the word "tweet" appears is in one of the too-long short stories, @12 (929 words).

I also note that the best story is in fact the shortest: @10 by dsrtao (176 words). This story also completely ignores the requirement for explicit inclusion of the required news stories, thus demonstrating that nerds selectively employ literal interpretation of instructions.


Yes, we nerds tend to take instructions literally.

Indeed. Language-lawyering is more or less Alex's superpower in The Rhesus Chart.


And the superpower of commenters on this blog. Implying we are merely characters in Charlie's imagination.


Murderclowns, plural? So you've got another one then?


And why not? Look how fond of the form Uncle Isaac used to be.


A even better example is the title character of the wonderful children's novel Ella, Enchanted (ignore the dreadful Anne Hathaway movie), who is given the "gift" of obedience by one of her fairy godmothers, and therefore grows up teaching herself creative methods of doing what she wants while obeying the literal instructions she is given.


I'm having trouble with the Rudy part of the story.

I can remember when they released some of the indictments about Trump, but they wouldn't name the people under consideration. The would label them with person one, person two, etc.., but they were using different labels.

Anyone remember the way they labeled the individuals.



Trump was "Individual 1" in the Michael Cohen indictment. I don't remember anyone else.



That drives me nuts. I had the answer, but couldn't google the right question.



Item 2 in the background section is as follows:

In or about January 2017, COHEN left the Company and began holding himself out as the "personal attorney" to Individual-1, who at that point had become the President of the United States.

I have to laugh at the faux-anonymizing of Individual-1.


LAvery @61 said: Here's the Cohen indictment.

Wow! That is scary.

Truth is stranger than fiction. HA!

That does help with the Rudy section. I knew that it should be transcript style rather than normal prose.


BTW, the business deals MICHAEL COHEN had with Bank-1, Bank-2, Bank-3, etc..., Yikes!


Since the Rules seem to have been Mandela Effected to ask us for a Tweet instead of a short story, here goes my Tweet:

I have a handheld device that activates when I glare at it, it undoes mistakes when I shake it or slap it, and it keeps showing me unbelievable information about how crazy the world is, that only time travel could fix at this point. Our phones are Al’s Handlink to Ziggy.


Speaking of the Mandela Effect. I like the Moon blowing up at 2:19.


I collect images and movies with the shattered Moon like that.

This one is from the Moon's viewpoint of a shattered Earth.


BREAKING NEWS: Guliani accidentally reveals in buttdial he needs more money to aquire the chihuahua he wanted. Five hitmen from a Romanian circus who subcontracted a hit on an Angus man, refusing to sell his dog, to each other were jailed in Perth where Angus man tried to fly a drone into prison after trying to find his now missing dog with tracker equiped russian eagles, spending his savings, believing his dog was in prison with the men.


Just a thought for Remembrance/Armistice/Veteran's Day (11/11):

Has anyone written an alt-history that has the Christmas Truce of 1914 leading to a widespread pacifist revolt by the enlisted against the officers (basically, everyone refusing to fight), leading in turn to WWI fizzling, nonviolent revolutions across Europe, and...?

Considering the quality of leadership shown in WWI and the purported bravery of the troops, I was just contemplating the possible shape of the world if those brave troops had stood up to the asininity of their leaders.

Happy belated poppy day.


I'm no good at creative writing. My prose is stilted & pedantic and I can't write dialog for shit. OTOH, the part about fiction having to be more believable than reality is dead easy when you have reality like this:

Don Jr. storms out over far-right hecklers at event for his book about liberals "silencing" speech


We had the same thing in mind Greg!


Yes, we nerds tend to take instructions literally.

I remember a college writing professor mentioning that she loved teaching engineering majors for just that reason. They were no better writers than anyone else - but they did by Dog read the instructions, meaning that what they sent back had some relationship to the assignment given.


I remember a college writing professor mentioning that she loved teaching engineering majors for just that reason. They were no better writers than anyone else - but they did by Dog read the instructions, meaning that what they sent back had some relationship to the assignment given.

This is a good characteristic in people who build bridges, airplanes, and critical life-support systems. Assuming those who write the instructions are similarly careful.


Engineers and other sciencey people have to write reports. It requires being able to do it right. (My father, a mechanical engineer, wrote one on what might happen if an LNG tanker, anchored near a nuclear power plant, then blew up.)

As a CS student, I wrote a manual covering error messages for an invented language, including probable causes for the messages. (The error messages were real, taken from an existing language.) The professor really liked the way I did it.


When I was a prof, I used to tell me students (who were, almost to a person, appallingly bad writers), "No matter what kind of a career you have as a scientist, you're going to have to write. Learn to do it well."



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on October 26, 2019 12:17 PM.

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